Political Tittle-tattle: News and Entertainment from Hawaii’s Political Arena

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”Opening Day Brings Colorful Characters, Food, Festivities, Empty Promises of Bi-Partisanship”


Opening Day at the state Legislature is one of the most fun and least significant days of the 60-day session, which wraps up in early May. There are opening day speeches by the majority and minority leaders from the Democrat and Republican caucuses respectively, typically filled with empty rhetoric and promises of bi-partisanship.

The saving grace is the occasional interesting proposals that pop out during these speeches, although that is rare.

Also making the whole event more interesting are the strange and unusual characters who annually make an appearance, such as the “Emperor of China,” the “King of Hawaii,” the “Condom Lady,” and the “Beehive Lady,” just to name a few. And then there is the “real” governor of Hawaii, who shows in overalls and suspenders and his two children and makes the rounds for his once-a-year filling of his larder in all of the different office offering food. It is a banner day for florists, with hundreds of flower arrangements flowing into the capitol, although there are fewer flowers this year than most.

Following the formalities, there is entertainment in the Senate and House chambers. And then hordes of lobbyists, union workers, small business people, media and hungry visitors go from office to office, tasting the fancy spreads, meeting with legislators and riding the extremely slow elevators to the fifth floor of the capitol to the governor and lieutenant governor’s offices.

There also will be many a meeting and alliance formed by people hanging over the railings of the four upper floors of the square-shaped building that is hollow in the middle, allowing the four sides to face each other and those who hang there to keep tabs on one another.

While today most people act kindly toward one another, that ends pretty quickly once the food is put away. Tomorrow marks the day the real work begins, particularly for those who are fighting for true reform in the business climate, many who have been fighting for this reform for the last 40 years. Tomorrow also marks the day where the term “bi-partisanship” will become meaningless, and the Democrats and Republicans will return to their caucuses and the majority party, still in control of the legislative branch, will figure ways to ignore and kill off Republican bills.

”Good Cop, Bad Cop Strategy Used on Lingle”

The Democrat majority in the House and Senate already are taking a page from the police department’s playbook in handling the first Republican governor in 40 years. The strategy: good cop, bad cop.

Senate Democrats are being extremely kind to Gov. Linda Lingle, saying little negative about her proposals or about the budget proposal her new budget director unveiled yesterday before the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

However, the House Democrats are on the attack. The House leadership already has attempted to stop Lingle on several fronts, even the simple proposals she wants to implement, such as changing the time of her State of the State address to 6 p.m. instead of 10 a.m. so more people can attend after work. Other proposals she’s made have been given the cold shoulder by some in the House majority party and they have attacked her on the news.

Maybe the Democrats in the Senate are just nicer than the House leadership, or maybe it is part of the strategy of ensuring Lingle doesn’t get her proposals through or get re-elected. Their actions will speak louder than words this session.

The media isn’t helping Lingle either. Already KITV News promoted a story last night on the governor “backing off” on her campaign promises, specifically her tax reduction proposals. Being at the same press conference as KITV and other reporters, and sitting through the entire presentation by Georgina Kawamura on the budget, never did the governor “back off” on her proposals. In fact, she refused to talk about her proposal in too much detail until her State of the State address next week Tuesday.

During the presentation of the operating budget, Senate Ways and Means members questioned Kawamura on the effect of the governor’s plans touted in her gubernatorial campaign to eliminate taxes on food and medical services beginning in 2005. Senate Ways and Means Chair Brian Taniguchi says Democrats estimate that the reduction will result in between $160 million and $240 million “tax revenue loss” for the state, while Kawamura has the figure closer to $30 million beginning in 2005. She would not give specifics, so Senators were not sure if the $30 million was attributed to food or medical or both, saying they will have to wait for details.

Senate Republicans look at any tax exemption for food and medical, not as a “loss,” but as more discretionary income in the hands of the Hawaii families who earned the money in the first place.

The state’s annual operating budget is around $3.5 billion, while special funds total around $3.5 billion. This will be the focus of the Legislature, although the media and others will attempt to shift the attention from how much the government is actually extracting from island families by regurgitating issues that come up every year such as physician assisted suicide and gambling.

”Lingle Appoints New Two New Cabinet Members”

Gov. Linda Lingle has nearly completed selecting her 16 cabinet members, though Democrats in the Legislature say they are surprised it took her so long. Lingle says she didn’t want to “settle” for appointees who might not have been the right person for the job. She also waded through hundreds upon hundreds of resumes, trying to select appointees who aren’t the usual suspects that have circulated from government appointment to government appointment for the last 40 years under a Democrat-controlled administration and Legislature.

The new appointees are Peter Young, businessman currently a deputy director in the Big Island county, who will serve as the director of the Department of Land and Natural Resources. Young will take over an agency famously hostile to small businesses, specifically those businesses in the boating industry. In fact, the Department of Land and Natural Resources has contributed to many a small businesses going out of business –